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Students to lend a hand in Bolivia

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Students from Collège Pierre-Elliott-Trudeau are continuing to show love for Bolivia.

In 2000, the Transcona high school began fundraising to support the Stansberry orphanage in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. In 2005, the school took its commitment a step further, sending volunteers to help for the first time. In that year, a before-and-after-school program was started with 15 students, and has ballooned to 105 students while employing three teachers and a school psychologist.

This spring break, 17 students will volunteer at the orphanage, marking the sixth time the school has sent a contingent to South America. Organizer Larry Paetkau explained students will be serving in a variety of roles while there.

"This time, what we’re going to do is a lot of maintenance-type of stuff, things that they need help with – sanding and varnishing, helping the day care, getting to know the volunteers, working in the kitchen," said Paetkau. "In the evenings, we’ll be hanging out with the orphans."

The school has contributed nearly $50,000 in the past four years to help with infrastructure costs like a professional stove and oven, hot water heaters, and gas lines, as well as medical and teaching supplies, and clothing. It has also received outside funding through the Mennonite Central Committee and provincial government.

Grade 12 student Hayley Cressall said she’s been working with children for several years, but said it’ll be a new experience in a new country and new culture. She expects to come back with a greater appreciation for life in Canada.

"I hope to experience different lives in the world, because we’re very fortunate with what we have here," she said. "It’d be nice to see what other people have and appreciate what we have."

Cressall said she’s been saving for five years in anticipation of going on the trip.

In order to help fund this year’s journey, organizers are holding a fundraising concert in the school gymnasium featuring a cappella group Those Guys and local band Black Hearted on Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 and are available from the school office or from the travellers themselves.

Concert organizer Eric Miron went on the school’s last trip to Bolivia in 2011. Various factors kept him from going this year, but he still wanted to find a way to help out. He asked his brother, Simon, a member of Those Guys, if they’d be interested in performing at a fundraiser and the group jumped on board.

"I approached my brother and asked his group if they would be willing to do a benefit concert and we could raise awareness for Stansberry, and at the same time, help these kids fund their trip," he said. "Usually there’s a bud and spud or Bolivia night, but they didn’t have major fundraisers for this trip.

"(Simon) brought it to Those Guys and they were losing their minds, they wanted to do it so bad, and they’re pretty busy."

More information is available at www.mrpaetkausclass.com.

dan.falloon@canstarnews.com

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